After four hugely critical albums, New York-based quintet The National finally hit it big in 2010, with fifth album High Violet, which enabled them to become a headline act and play third from top at Reading and Leeds. This was a somewhat meteoric rise, from their previous position on the then-Carling stage way back in 2005.
In a year where it was hard to divulge a great addition to the line up, The National proved how they were one of the festivals’ true gems. The setting sun was a perfect backdrop to their performance, the only thing missing was, well, a crowd.
The band played tracks from three of the their critically acclaimed albums, Alligator, Boxer and High Violet, where we got to see the beauty of Matt Berninger’s baritone vocals. “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, “Fake Empire” and “Anyone’s Ghost” sound as though they are classics of old, yet still retain their contemporary sound. The National have that little bit extra in their sound, compared to some of their peers. “Abel” from 2005’s Alligator is one of those haunting festival performances that leave you with goosebumps when remembering it, while “Mr November”, from the same album, sees Berninger’s emotions getting the better of him, as he throws his microphone to the floor. The songs gradually build up the atmosphere, as the lyrics of loneliness and isolation make even a festival crowd seem a lonely place to be.
After the mass exodus following Jimmy Eat World‘s set, it feels as though those who left are missing out on something special, whilst The National are a band who deserve to play to the biggest crowds and showcase their music to a wider audience. You can’t help but feel as though those who missed out could regret it in time, and it’s their loss. Following them was always going to be difficult.